POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Kohl question dominates debut of LuxLeaks appeals



deltour-courtroom-april-2016.jpg

Antoine Deltour stands inside a Luxembourg City courtroom during the “Luxleaks” trial on 27 April 2016. Photo: Sven Becker 

A lengthy argument over calling a former senior Luxembourg Inland Revenue official to the stand launched the first day of appeals hearings in the “LuxLeaks” case.

The state also asked this week for lighter penalties than previously sought to be handed down against the defendants.

Antoine Deltour and Raphaël Halet, former employees of the accounting firm PwC in the Grand Duchy, were found guilty earlier this year of stealing and leaking thousands of confidential tax documents to Édouard Perrin, a journalist who stood trial as an accomplice.

Prosecutors had initially asked for prison terms of 18 months, but in June, Deltour was given a suspended sentence of 12 months and Halet was given a suspended sentence of 9 months. Perrin was acquitted.

Deltour and Halet appealed their convictions, saying it was unjustified given their status as whistleblowers.

Prosecutors also appealed, originally stating that they would seek stiffer sentences for Deltour and Halet and challenge Perrin’s acquittal. However, on Monday, the state asked for a 6 month suspended sentence and €1,500 fine against Deltour, no prison sentence but a €1,000 fine for Halet, and acquittal of Perrin.

Around 100 activists rally to support the Luxleaks defendants during their appeals hearings at the central courthouse complex in Luxembourg City on 12 December 2016. Photo: German Green MEP Sven Giegold’s Twitter feed
Around 100 activists rally to support the LuxLeaks defendants during their appeals hearings at the central courthouse complex in Luxembourg City on 12 December 2016. Photo: German Green MEP Sven Giegold’s Twitter feed

The first hour of the hearing focused on whether or not Marius Kohl, the former head of the Luxembourg tax service’s “Office 6” should be called as a witness. Despite being at the centre of the purloined documents, he did not testify at the trial because he had a medical excuse. On 12 December, the court heard that he once again had a note from his doctor.

An expert witness for the defence called Kohl’s tax rulings questionable; defence attorneys said they wanted to question Kohl in order to show his decisions were illegal.

A senior prosecutor said Kohl’s testimony would only be “incidental” to the rest of the evidence.

After an hour of arguments, the court ruled against compelling Kohl to appear.

In a press statement issued following the Luxleaks convictions, on 29 June 2016, PwC Luxembourg said it “stands by the advice it provided to its clients, all of which was given in accordance with applicable local and international tax laws and agreements”
In a press statement issued following the LuxLeaks convictions, on 29 June 2016, PwC Luxembourg said it “stands by the advice it provided to its clients, all of which was given in accordance with applicable local and international tax laws and agreements”. Pictured: the atrium of the consulting firm’s Ban de Gasperich headquarters, seen in November 2014. Photo: PwC Luxembourg/Olivier Toussaint

Deltour and Halet were then questioned about the chain of events that was covered at trial. Much of the questioning focused on Deltour’s intentions--what he had planned to do with the tax documents--when he made the illicit copies.

The appeals continue on Monday 19 December, when the case against Perrin will be examined. It is possible hearings will continue into January 2017.

Reported by Camille Frati with Aaron Grunwald; edited by Aaron Grunwald. Have a comment? Send an email to [email protected]